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Concise History of Solar and Stellar Physics

by Jean-Louis Tassoul and Monique Tassoul Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 304 pages
AU$69.00 NZ$72.17
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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This book provides a comprehensive overview of the history of ideas about the sun and the stars, from antiquity to modern times. Two theoretical astrophysicists who have been active in the field since the early 1960s tell the story in fluent prose. About half of the book covers most of the theoretical research done from 1940 to the close of the twentieth century, a large body of work that has to date been little explored by historians. The first chapter, which outlines the period from about 3000 B.C. to 1700 A.D., shows that at every stage in history human beings have had a particular understanding of the sun and stars, and that this has continually evolved over the centuries. Next the authors systematically address the immense mass of observations astronomy accumulated from the early seventeenth century to the early twentieth. The remaining four chapters examine the history of the field from the physicists perspective, the emphasis being on theoretical work from the mid-1840s to the late 1990s--from thermodynamics to quantum mechanics, from nuclear physics and magnetohydrodynamics to the remarkable advances through to the late 1960s, and finally, to more recent theoretical work. Intended mainly for students and teachers of astronomy, this book will also be a useful reference for practicing astronomers and scientifically curious general readers.

List of Figures vii

Preface xi

Chapter 1. The Age o Myths and Speculations 1

1.1 Ancient Egypt and the Middle East 2

1.2 Ionia: The Eastern Greek School 4

1.3 Southern Italy: The Western Greek School 6

1.4 The Athenian Period 7

1.5 The Alexandrian Period 12

1.6 From the Dark Age to the Renaissance 16

1.7 The Emergence of Modern Astronomy 22

Chapter 2. Three Centuries of Optical Discoveries: 1610-1910 29

2.1 Distances to the Sun and the Stars 30

2.2 The Beginnings of Spectroscopy 33

2.3 The Sun as a Star 40

2.4 Solar Activity and Rotation 43

2.5 Intrinsic Properties of Stars 47

2.6 Binary Stars and Stellar Masses 56

2.7 Variable and Unusual Stars 59

2.8 The Rise of Astrophysics 64

Chapter 3. The Time of Pioneers: 1840-1910 66

3.1 The Puzzle of the Sun's Energy 67

3.2 The First Solar Models 73

3.3 The Pulsation Theory of Variable Stars (I) 79

3.4 The Double-Star Problem 81

3.5 Early Views of Stellar Evolution 84

3.6 Outline of Solar Activity and Rotation 88

3.7 Retrospect: The Nineteenth-Century

Advances 91

Chapter 4. The Formative Years: 1910-1940 94

4.1 The Beginnings of Quantitative Astrophysics 96

4.2 The Stellar-Energy Problem 100

4.3 The Internal Structure of Stars 103

4.4 Pre-1938 Views of Stellar Evolution 110

4.5 White Dwarfs and Neutron Stars 114

4.6 The Pulsation Theory of Variable Stars (II) 120

4.7 The Early Studies of Stellar Rotation 123

4.8 Solar and Stellar Hydrodynamics 128

Chapter 5. The Golden Age: 1940-1970 133

5.1 Nuclear Reactions and Energy Production in Stars 135

5.2 Calculation of Stellar Structure 143

5.3 A Brief Survey of Stellar Evolution 147

5.4 Postgiant Evolution and Stellar Remnants 156

5.5 Evolution of Close Binary Stars 166

5.6 The Pulsation Theory of Variable Stars (III) 173

5.7 Stellar Rotation and Magnetic Fields 177

5.8 The Maturing of Solar Physics 183

Chapter 6. The Era of Specialization: 1970-192

6.1 Single, Double, and Multiple Stars 193

6.2 Early-Type Stars 202

6.3 The Sun 210

6.4 Late-Type Stars 220

6.5 The Pulsation Theory of Variable Stars (IV) 228

6.6 Final Stages of Stellar Evolution 234

Epilogue 247

Appendix A. Lane's Fully Convective Gas Spheres 250

Appendix B. Ritter's Polytropic Gas Spheres 251

Appendix C. Ritter's Theory o Pulsating Stars 252

Appendix D. Radial and Nonradial Stellar Pulsations 254

Appendix E. Bohr's Model of the Atom 257

Appendix F. Einstein's Mass-Energy Relation 260

Appendix G. Three Important Nuclear Reactions 263

General Bibliography 265

Index of Names 269

Index of Subjects 277

'This is a fascinating story well told. A host of brief biographies, portraits and figures brings the text to life.'--David Hughes,New Scientist 'The authors have compressed an amazing amount of information into a relatively slender book, and I expect that it will be a standard reference for many years.'--William R. Green, The Leading Edge
Jean-Louis and Monique Tassoul received the 2001 Paul and Marie Stroobant Prize of the Académie Royale de Belgique for their work on stellar rotation and stellar stability. From 1968 to 1993, Jean-Louis, whose books include Theory of Rotating Stars (Princeton), was a faculty member of the Physics Department at the Université de Montréal.